PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) vs. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout: Which is best?

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) and Blackout are among Xbox One's greatest battle royale games in 2018. However, PUBG's failure to consistently deliver smooth gameplay makes Call of Duty's Blackout the clear victor.

Fight to the death

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has made its highly-anticipated debut, bringing an all-new last-man-standing mode for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PCs. Capitalizing on the battle royale trend, Blackout brings a fresh new take on the series' refined shooter gameplay. However, its success isn't guaranteed, facing strong competition from Fortnite and PUBG.

Although PUBG shares numerous concepts with rivals, it established a strong legacy in the genre. The game is frequently attributed for kickstarting battle royale's growth, via its PC debut in early 2017. Inspired by cult movies, its simple premise drops 100 players into a last-man-standing battle on a deserted island. With a gritty world and punishing combat, it delivers a mature shooter experience.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's military-inspired aesthetic adopts a similar tone, packing near-future weaponry and visceral encounters. While leveraging the core mechanics synonymous with royale, the franchise's strong first-person shooter (FPS) legacy isn't overlooked.

Blackout vs PUBG: The pros and cons

Blackout inherits the refined gunplay of the Call of Duty series, centered around fast-paced combat and smooth locomotion. Its assortment of firearms each requires designated ammunition calibers, with sights and attachments altering the performance and in-hand feel. With the flexibility to build advanced loadouts around playstyles and situations, this leaves every encounter feeling fresh. It also requires deeper inventory management, keeping the right items nearby, while factoring carry capacity.

Equal depth is also present in PUBG, with the flexibility to formulate custom weapon loadouts. Scavenging and managing inventory is still key by stocking up on weapons, aid, and equipment to survive. However, gunplay lacks the fluidity of Blackout, with finicky precision especially at long ranges. While both first-person and third-person modes are enjoyable, Call of Duty's 15 years of expertise is clear.

PUBG and Blackout are otherwise relatively "pure" battle royale experiences, centered on building a loadout for encounters. This increases attention on their other aspects, unlike titles like Fornite featuring unique building mechanics. This has left PUBG failing to find its identity, relying on the pure thrill of the last-man-standing mode. Comparatively, Blackout's mashup of Call of Duty history sets a more inviting stage for shooter fans.

Although PUBG has garnered high player counts, its biggest issue in 2018 is performance. Optimization isn't PUBG's best trait, and while PC has improved, the Xbox One version is in an embarrassing state. Even on Microsoft's latest Xbox One X, the console fails to consistently achieve 30 frames-per-second (FPS), while Blackout is targeting double the frames.

For Blackout, our biggest worry is the lack of a clear content roadmap, meaning an uncertain future awaits its player base. PUBG is regularly adding new maps, challenges, and items, with promises of more to come. It's unclear what Activision has a planned for the mode to keep players returning, which will be crucial for long-term success.

Should I buy Blackout or PUBG?

PUBG set the standard for modern battle royale, time offering a tactical shooter with unrivaled tension for its time. Amidst the rise of competitors, its authority has diminished, with Blackout now offering the best alternative so far.

While PUBG has improved significantly since the early days, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout packs unmatched fluidity. For those on Xbox One, its current state makes Blackout 2018's must-buy battle royale.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.